Double Walled Quick Hoops

I recently traveled “home” to the Carolina's for the holidays. While I enjoyed all the time with my loved ones, I also felt very green with jealously – their growing season is so much better than mine! And they even get rain! Aaaaaghhh!

Okay, I’m not really THAT worked up about it…. Well, that’s I lie, I am. But I’m going to pretend I’m not, and focus instead on the ways gardening in Northern Utah has helped me be a better and more creative gardener.

So, without further ado, here is how I am currently managing to garden year round without a dedicated green house (yet - I'm in the planning phase of one now), even when we are feet deep in snow….

Double Walled Low Hoops
This winter is my first time trying a double walled low hoop. Last year, I did a single wall low hoop which helped me get a head start on my season but didn’t really combat the worst of the winter weather.

So far, the double walled low hoops are a great success. When I poked my head under the hoops on our winter solstice, I had lettuce ready for the picking and my yarrow was blooming! For a description on how to create low hoops for your garden, check out my previous post on Quick Hoops. Double Walled Low Hoops are mostly the same design, you just add a second set of hoops and plastic on the outside of the first set. 

Here are some pictures of getting it set up this past fall, with some basic instructions... Assuming you have a close to 3.5 foot wide raised bed, these measurements should work decently for you. I also wrote these instructions assuming you have already read the post on Quick Hoops.

Make your inner tunnel supports by hammering your rebar along the INSIDE edge of your raised garden bed. Thread 6 foot lengths of PVC piping over these pieces of rebar (mine are 5 foot lengths and I regret making them that short). It will be much harder to bend these shorter lengths of PVC, so try pre-bending them in the air by grabbing the two far ends (or as close as you can get to them) and pulling them in towards yourself. You can also make life easier by making sure your rebar has an inward angle to it - not straight up and down. 

Grunt, cuss, do what you need to, and get the PVC onto the rebar.

Do not put on plastic yet!

Make your outer tunnel supports by hammering rebar OUTSIDE the edge of your raised garden bed. Thread 8 foot lengths of PVC piping over these pieces of rebar (Mine are 7 foot lengths, and again – I regret making them that short; if you don't like the length, you can always shorten them after you've seen how it works for you). 

At least point, you may be hopping back and forth over your bed to get the PVC pipe threaded – which is why we didn’t put plastic on yet.

Now, add the plastic sheeting. Starting on one end of your bed, you’ll put plastic on the lower hoops first – securing the end with a cinder block to hold the plastic in place while you slide it between the outer and inner hoops. Secure at the other end with another cinder block and make the plastic lay pretty along the whole thing. No need to secure the long sides of this layer – it will be protected by the outer layer. Just make sure it goes all the way to the ground. I trimmed this layer to be exactly enough to cover the bed with no more, so I wouldn’t have extra plastic bunching on the ground – that helps prevent slug havens. 

Cover the outdoor tunnel supports with a second layer of plastic. Secure with another set of cinder blocks. For the sides of the outer layer, I took ¾ water filled milk jugs (painted black) and wrapped them under the outer plastic layer – so the jugs weighed down the sides of my outer tunnel, but were in between the two plastic layers. This helped keep the insulating air space between the two plastic layers and provided some thermal mass inside the whole system.

Finally, you’ll see in my photos below that there are black bags of leaves on either end of my tunnel. These are there for extra thermal mass and wind buffering. Due to how my yard is situated, it made the most sense for my garden beds to have their long edges face east and west. If your beds have their long edges facing north and south, you will want to pile up some black bags of leaves (or similar insulators) along your northern edge, and plan on accessing your bed from the southern edge.

Bonus Heat:

You can add solar powered lights inside to help keep things warm. This also helps you judge if your plastic is too thick or obtuse – if there isn’t enough sun to power your lights, then there probably isn’t enough sun for your plants to grow. The solar lights in my tunnel were left behind by the prior owner of our home, so I don’t know if their cost outweighs their benefit. 

Understand the goal of the hoops.
When the temperatures get as cold as they do here for the winter, the goal of these quick hoops isn’t really to keep crops “growing” but rather to keep crops alive. While there are many crops tolerant of frosts, they don’t actually grow during freezing temperatures- they lie dormant. What kills the winter hardy plants off are quick temperature swings, extremely cold temps, or damage from freezing rain or heavy snow. So, these low hoops are used to reduce the speed and extremeness of any temperature swings and keep sleet off of the crops.

With this in mind, make sure you plan your fall garden accordingly if you want to utilize hoops to extend your season into the winter. Plant the crops you want to overwinter early enough in the fall that they have enough time to get established before the cold hits. Think of how many plants you want during the winter months, and what you want to get a head start on in the spring.

In addition to my quick hoop tunnel, I have an indoor grow station to supplement our winter salads and handle our spring seed starting. I'll work on getting a post up about that soon!

Thanks for reading,